Ashy storm petrels spend most of their time at sea. Unless they’re incubating an egg, adults typically visit their nesting sites for just a few hours in the middle of the night, making them a challenging species to study. Photograph by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/Jeff Poklen via Flickr.

Eavesdropping on seabirds

Ecologists trying to pin down the complex web of connections swirling around a particular species need to start with the basics, things like the size of the population, and whether or not its members are breeding successfully. Simple questions, but if a scientist’s quarry is elusive or cryptic, it can take more than the powers […]

Continue Reading
A new streetlight, powered by solar panels bolted to its spine, sits at the end of the Santa Cruz wharf.

Solar streetlight illuminates innovative solutions

This story starts with poop. Bird poop. A solar panel shouldn’t be caked in white crust. It should be a dark flat shelf open to the sky, soaking up sunlight, resting near the streetlight it’s meant to power perched on the end of a wharf. But imagine you’re a seagull used to roosting on that […]

Continue Reading
Diver Ryan Brennan hangs with a Mola mola off the coast of Southern California

Credit: Bradley Beckett

Face to Face with the Ugly, Marvelous Mola Mola

It’s been described as a “swimming head,” and can weigh as much as an adult rhinoceros—and it also turns out to be one of the most fascinating fish in the sea With a final breath of air, I descend beneath the surface among swaying kelp and flying sea lions. I’m in search of a creature that […]

Continue Reading
IMG_3967

How to grow a jellyfish

At nine in the morning, an hour before the Monterey Bay Aquarium opens to the public, the curator of husbandry operations walks across a tiled tundra of empty exhibit halls. Watery displays drench the floors in blue-green light, and a groggy-eyed sculpture of a whale the size of a bus hangs from the ceiling overhead. Paul […]

Continue Reading
A monarch butterfly at rest (Image by Captain-tucker via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Monarch Munchies

(Or, how to create the perfect parasite-free butterfly garden.)     Sometime in elementary school, an article in my local paper alerted me to the plight of the monarch butterflies. Milkweed is only food monarch caterpillars eat, the article said, and it’s also the only plant where the adult butterflies lay their eggs. But wild […]

Continue Reading
Oregon wolf OR-11, image courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

A cultural and emotional history of wolves in Oregon

On November 9th, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife voted 4-2 to remove wolves from Oregon’s state endangered species list, while increasing penalties for killing wolves. This surprised many people, myself included. You see, until 2008, there were no wolves in Oregon. They had been extinct for 70 years. Before I go any further, […]

Continue Reading
Spring brings thoughts of strawberries...and pesticides. Photo by Leslie Willoughby

Strawberries, power, and science

Monterey County>> Fragrant, tender, and sweet, strawberries brighten produce aisles nationwide. The use of pesticides assures their abundance and affordable price. Yet the chemicals that protect the berries may extract costs beyond those paid by shoppers. They may harm workers who harvest the berries, as well as their children. A quarter of America’s strawberries grow […]

Continue Reading
rp_picturing-words-top.jpg

How Does A Young Brain Read?

Cross-post from the Inside Science Currents Blog Cozying up with a good book can transport a reader anywhere, from Victorian England to the desolate craggy plains of Mordor. We take for granted how seamlessly our mind’s eye paints these elaborate pictures, but it’s natural to wonder how our brains learn to associate a word like […]

Continue Reading
Here, Buchanan is measuring groundwater levels in the Ogallala aquifer in Morton County, Kansas.
[Credit: Kansas Geological Survey]

From Journalist to Geologist: A Q&A with Rex Buchanan

After decades as a science reporter, interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey Rex Buchanan now finds himself at the epicenter of a media frenzy.  When Rex Buchanan became interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey in 2010, earthquakes there were practically unheard of. Only a handful had occurred in the previous ten years, and […]

Continue Reading